POLK COUNTY, Ga. (CBS) — The Polk County sheriff said he will reduce the sentences of six prisoners who jumped to action when a correctional officer fainted during a work detail.

The officer, who requested anonymity, passed out on June 12 while he was overseeing the inmates’ work detail at a local graveyard. He said the inmates who he worked with seven hours a day, five days a week, noticed something unusual about him that morning.

He felt sick when he woke up, and the 76-degree heat with 100-percent humidity made him feel worse, he said.

“I started coughing spells, and every time I got those, I’d get hotter,” the deputy told WXIA-TV. “It was just harder to keep up … I just finally went down after a couple of minutes doing that.”

The officer blamed the high humidity for his collapse.

“Once I actually went down, I was already in one of my hyperventilating spells,” he said. “So at that point, I was just trying to breath. I really wasn’t thinking much, but just trying to get everything under control.”

Instead of running, the six prisoners took control themselves. They removed the officer’s gun belt and bulletproof vest to help him cool off, performed CPR and used the deputy’s phone to dial 911.

Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats said he will reduce each of the inmates’ sentences by about one-fourth.

“Anytime we have a trustee or inmate crew that goes beyond normal duties, we cut them some extra time off,” Moats told WXIA-TV.

Along with the reduced sentences, the six inmates were rewarded with nationwide praise and a free lunch from the officer’s family members.

The deputy has since been taken off of work detail and reassigned to patrol. He said the inmates deserve the praise and shortened sentences.

“That moment when they’re out, they’re not really inmates to you,” the officer said. “They’re just a group of guys and you’re out. You try to be more like friends and in my case, it just worked out for the better.”


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